Monsieur Batignole is an interesting film – it tries something different for a WWII piece – making it a refreshing change.
Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of WWII films seem similar in nature, but this one struck me as different. It showed us that some French were collaborators; some did benefit from the German occupation. Usually we see the heroic French Resistance, and the German buffoon. Well, the German Colonel stereotype is fulfilled at least, but M. Batignole is an interesting character. At first, he is seemingly deliberately apolitical, but willing to accept the gratuities his “son-in-law” Pierre the collaborator wins for him. He is the contradiction of the stereotype, but seems to be claiming not to be – he bemoans what his customers will think of him, thinking he will lose business if they see him as benefitting from Jewish loss (but all the while enjoying the gains). It is this conflict that makes him such a winning lead character.
The choices he then makes, when physically confronted with the side effects of his actions, define him. He makes us consider how we would respond in such a situation… with courage and leadership, or by going with the flow? It is only in being forced to decide for himself, that he fully becomes himself, rather than hiding behind the actions of his bossy wife and devious “son-in-law”. His conversion from apathy to ownership of the problems the Jews of Europe faced is a moving one.
Technically, this film is competently shot and edited. The acting of the children is, at times, trying, but in some respects they were written that way. The relationship between M. Batignole and Simon is played beautifully by Sitruk and Jugnot.
Monsieur Batignole is definitely worth seeing, and gives a new twist, to me at least, on the WWII genre, whilst also allowing us to witness the father-son relationship in another form. Moving, at times funny, at times sad, this film comes highly recommended.Rating: